Like people, horses come with their own personalities. They vary in terms of intelligence, physical abilities, anxieties, capacities, etc. For this reason, perhaps the number one behavior the trainer must have is patience. Some horses pick up quickly what you are asking them. Others pick up quickly but are slow to translate that into movement. Many must process what we are asking at a rate much, much slower than our human ‘get it done now’ orientation. A trainer pausing a few seconds after asking for a yield can many times avoid biting, kicking, and shutting down. Most of the horses I have experienced that are ‘shut down’ are disengaged from us due to our lack of patience.
High expectations for the horse you are training go hand in hand with respect for the horse’s capacity. Horses enjoy a challenge and are eager to learn if we approach them without our timeline for learning a new behavior. High expectations should come with an understanding that a horse has a unique set of abilities: The horse cannot operate on our timeframe for the mastery of a task. Patience, incremental steps, and going at the horse’s speed, not yours, are required. Horse and trainer achieve the desired goal as a team, without one leaving the other behind. Accomplishing a task may take one week or three years—the horse determines how long. Your patience and willingness to go at the horse’s pace speed up the process because you will not be wasting time in back and forth resistance.
Patience to Yielding: Lack of patience also results in lack of calmness, lack of focus, lack of empathy, confused emotions, lack of leadership, and the creation of a panicked horse. All of this creates an unyielding horse.